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Using a limited palette with a difference!

Acrylic painting Art Blog colour mixing how to paint painting advice Painting Technique personal art journey

Want to keep painting exciting? Getting bored with the colours you use. Want to shake things up a bit? Or do you just feel you don't know what to do with certain colours.

I am sure you have all heard how using a limited palette can help you learn to understand colour mixing and make a more harmonised painting. And it's true it does. But it can also take a long time when used in the conventicle way and it can get a little boring using the same colours for months when there are so many gorgeous colours to choose from.   

Today I am going to talk about this from a different angle you may not of thought of and fast track your understanding of colour.

What about choosing a colour scheme and then trying to use it in lots of different ways.

What do you mean Laura ? I hear you asking. Well what I mean is choosing a few colours or even just one colour that you are in the mood to paint with and trying out those colours on lots of little paintings really pushing the colour in different ways and mixing them to really get to know that colour or colour combination for just a short time. Also making some beautiful paintings along the way. 

For instance, for some reason this week I have been really attracted to purple. This isn't a colour I usually paint with a lot. So it was a mystery to me why, but I was feeling that colour so I went with it. I decided I wanted to do a purple seascape. 

My palette for this colour was Purple, Ultramarine blue, Quinacridone Magenta, mixing white and cadmium yellow medium

Ultramarine blue and magenta makes a gorgeous bright clear purple and the purple out of the tube looks kind of grey when you add white, so great for darkening up your mixed purple. The yellow can be used to dull the colour or if painted next to the purple in the right places can intensify the purple colour. Or add a great glow of colour for sunsets with the purple around it.

Now because I don't paint with this colour often that first painting did give me a few headaches. That purple paint dried super dark compared from wet and I had to spend some time trying to lighten it up over and over. Now I could of left it there but doing something once is not really a lesson learnt when it comes to painting and there are other aspects of this paint colour I could explore.

Here is the you tube video if you are interested in seeing how I fixed that to dark paint.

So next I did another seaside sunset this time putting a glow of the yellow in the sky. This time I could do the painting without the mistakes of last time as I was getting to understand this colour palette better. I then did another as I still felt in the purple mood but each one I did I used the same palette but pushed the colours different ways to get a different look. This time I had the method for a purple sunset seascape down pat and did a step by step tutorial YouTube video on it you can follow along to. 


Still feeling in the purple mood I wondered what else I could paint with this colour palette and decided night skies would be great in these colours.

And they did I think! I used different methods to apply the paint but still exactly the same colours. This also lead me to thinking that one of my galaxy girls would look great in these colours as well.

Each time I use the colours I get a better understanding of them and I like the challenge of seeing just how many different looks I can get using exactly the same very limited palette. 

In this way I am learning more about these colours and mixing them in a lot of interesting ways.

How I can dull the colour or keep it bright. What's the best way to make the colour pop, by what works best next to what. And by how much paint I use.

 Or how I can make everything very calm and peaceful. So changing the mood of the painting.

Try different subjects using the same palette.

Here I have tried flowers and abstracts

Lavender in summer                                   Purple Cloud Fantasy

These colours and I didn't know each other to well at the start of this colour journey but now I feel I know them well and can really use them to my advantage in future works.

Best of all It didn't take me months of painting to get this level of understanding with these colours. Just a couple of weeks using a very limited palette and doing lots of small paintings is the key here. I also save a ton of paint as I use the same palette the whole time. I use my homemade stay wet palette which means the paint stays workable for all the paintings.

 If you would like to know how to make a stay wet palette for yourself here is the link with the instructions.

I also have a collection of paintings now that all look great together. Great for selling or giving away.

I have a great reference now of this colour palette and a good knowledge base that is cemented in my mind from repeating the paint colours over and over.

By limiting your colour options dramatically you can really let your understanding and imagination grow. Bet you come up with some combinations and types of paintings you would never have thought of otherwise.

 But what if you have trouble thinking of different colour combinations to try out. Here's a few tips to get you started.

If you have young kids who like to paint. Then lucky you, just take a look at the colours they put together. Bet they come up with some very different colour combinations you would never have put together. I know mine did. As with this aqua and bronze combination. I got the idea for these colours from my kids painting.

                                    Green Cloud  

Have a look on Pinterest. What are the trending colours for this year for interior design, or the garden, or even fashion. You can find some interesting colour combinations here to. 

Or you could even put your paint colour names in a bag and randomly put out three or four names out and see what you get to try. I haven't tried this yet but it sounds fun and I think would be a great way to play with your paint when you are feeling unmotivated or have artist block.

Of cause this is just my thoughts of learning about you colours. I like to experiment and try different things. It keeps painting fresh, dynamic and exciting for me. But I also like to feel I am learning valuable skills along the way. Sometimes you can even stumble upon colours schemes that spark a whole series of paintings for you. 

Try out some different colour schemes today. Let me know how you choose them. Love to get new ideas for me as well.





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